When I first began building websites many years ago, when 56k modems were still considered "fast," you had to have a knowledge of HTML and how to "hand-code."
"Don't worry," they all said, "It's easy!"
They were right, it WAS easy! But things never looked quite the way I wanted them to, limitations of the web back then. Also, if you wanted to add a lot of content, it was a huge burden to keep everything up to date on all pages and manage your content successfully. Something as simple as updating a copyright meant you had to update each and every page!
Along came more sohpisticated programs like "HOT DOG" (remember that?), and "FrontPage" and "Dreamweaver." Wow, we was sylyin' then! You could use templates for your pages, and then when you updated one page, they could all update! What a time-saver!
But it still wasn't easy to manage large chunks of data, and things like blogs and sites with lots of information were difficult to work with, unless you knew DATABASES. Shudder! Why should you have to get a degree in Rocket Science just to post the blog about how when you were 16 you lost your virginity in the back of a...oops, did I type that out loud?
Finally, some sanity began to emerge from the browser wars and in the aftermath, HTML became more standardized, and a terrific new innovation appeared: CSS. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets, and it meant that you could finally separate the CONTENT of your website from it's APPEARANCE.
Now, this may not sound too earthshaking at first. What's the big deal about that?
What it means is, you can change the way your site looks without disturbing each individual page, without touching the content. You no longer have to hand-code which parts of the page should be in bolded text, or green, or have a border around it. Changing those layout items, in the past, took forever! Because you had to adjust each page, tediously.
With CSS, you change ONE file, and boom, the whole site updates, instantly! Say you want to make all the text on all the pages to be in Arial font. You just change the definition of the <p> tag (paragraph), and all the text marked with <p> update.
And CSS extendes to graphical elements as well, controlling issues such as margins, borders, colors, tables, visibility of items, and much more!
If you are still building your sites the hard way, hand-coding all the layout elements, and going through heck everytime you want to make basic changes to your site, it's time to get familiar with CSS. You can find a terrific online resource for it here.
Next time we'll discuss why you should also consider using a CMS to build your site upon as well!